My seven year-old son has a lot of difficulty making logical connections on his own. His inability to make logical connections is his biggest obstacle to academics and social functioning. How can we help him improve at it?

For example, one of his teeth fell out last night, but he left it in the van. We took him out to the van this morning to see if the tooth fairy came. He looked straight at the money a few times, but didn't notice it, because he was looking for his tooth.

We asked him what he was looking for, and he answered his tooth. So we asked why he was looking for his tooth, and he answered because he left it in there last night. So we asked him what the tooth fairy does, and he answered correctly and promptly. But it still didn't dawn on him. So we asked him what he should be looking for. Only then did he get it.

We know this isn't age-typical behavior, because his four year-old sister sometimes makes similar mistakes starting out, but she almost always makes the connection when she first sees hints like the money, and on the rare occasions she doesn't, she doesn't need more than one verbal hint. Our son almost never makes those connections without our input.

He easily remembers the pieces of the puzzle one at a time when prompted, and once the pieces are all there he can easily put them together. He does very well on logic games like robot turtles. It's just like it doesn't occur to his brain to ask the right questions.

This affects him academically. Math has a lot of deductive reasoning, and in reading new words he often gets stuck on his first pronunciation, and it doesn't occur to him to try an 's' sound for the 'c', for example. He is actually a grade level or more ahead in reading, according to these tests, but it's like he remembers a huge number of sight words rather than possessing good decoding ability. In other words, he is severely hampered in learning new things independently, but probably above average in recalling facts he learned previously.

We've probably said things like "What other sounds does a 'c' make?" thousands of times, but it doesn't occur to him to ask those questions of himself. Obviously modeling the behavior isn't working. We could make prospective memory aids for specific situations like reading new words, but that won't help him in other new situations, especially social ones.

We try to give him as small of hints as possible, in order to help him exercise that skill, but it hasn't seemed to make a difference. What else can we do to help him develop this skill?

  • 1
    I don't know if it makes sense, and maybe you are already doing this, but have you considered him doing more arts & music? Is he good at that? Using other parts of his brain might stimulate the stuff he has a hard time with?
    – Ida
    Jul 31, 2014 at 19:34
  • That's a good idea, @Ida, and something we already do but could step up. He also favors repetition over exploration in creative play. See this previous question of mine where I asked about him building the same lego designs over and over. Jul 31, 2014 at 20:08
  • Computer games. There are a lot of computer games where you need to do several steps of thinking; for example "Flow", html5games.com/2012/07/flow-free Aug 3, 2014 at 5:57

1 Answer 1


First off, while I certainly don't suggest giving up on training this ability, it's worth considering that this may simply be how his brain works to some extent. That means tailoring his education to accommodate.

For example, if he memorizes words rather than figuring out how to sound them out, that's fine: have him read a dictionary, or give him an iPod or laptop with dictionary.com or similar set up, where he can loop up words and push 'play' to hear them spoken. My wife has this exact problem in regards to turning words into sounds; she hasn't a clue how to pronounce many words that she learned from reading. Education that focuses on taking advantage of his skills can be very beneficial in the long run (and the short run), while still working on the weaknesses.

As far as trying to help this along, a few suggestions.

  • Encyclopedia Brown, or similar, books. These are effectively kid-level Sherlock Holmes stories, where there is a kid detective solving mysteries using deductive reasoning. You're encouraged by the structure of the story to 'guess along at home', and then at the end the reasoning is shown and explained in detail. I loved these as a kid, in part because deductive reasoning came naturally to me - but they're well written and interesting, so perhaps useful for training that side of things.
  • Math has a lot of examples of 'making connections' that can be treated like a memorization problem. Teach the transitive property of addition, for example. if 1+2 = 3 and 3+5=8 then 1+2+5=8., or the transitive property of equality more generally, if a=b and b=c then a=c. That's the connection you're asking him to make, right?
  • Teach him to play chess, and play it often. Chess is a strategy game, and that includes a lot of deductive reasoning . "If I do this, then he will do this, meaning this will happen."

The other thing to consider is that this sort of thing often comes from being overly focused, or overly disfocused. Being very focused means you don't see the forest for the trees - ie, you see one thing, so you try to see what it does, but you don't see the other things affecting it. Being disfocused means you have too many inputs, such that your brain can't really collapse them to useful information.

As such, training yourself to focus broadly, but not too broadly, can be very helpful. Training yourself to iteratively expand your focus, for example, so starting with the central element, then expanding to the things potentially affecting the central element, then expanding to the things potentially affecting those second tier elements, etc. This can be hard for someone at seven to handle, I imagine, but it's a good approach; it's how I deal with being overly focused in chess games, for example.

  • We already do the education tailoring as much as possible. That's why we are homeschooling and why he is reading as well as he is. However, at some point he needs a minimal proficiency in this skill. I especially like the focus training idea. It will take time to learn, but it would be nice for him to have a "standard operating procedure" for those situations. Jul 31, 2014 at 19:58
  • +1 for this could be how his brain works. I used to teach beside a reading teacher at my high school who worked with kids who were well below grade level in their reading skills. She explained to me that one of the big reasons motivating the push towards teaching "sight words" in the younger grades is because there is a small proportion of the population who simply does not "get" something like phonics but excels at simply memorizing words. Also +1 for all your other fabulous suggestions :-D
    – Meg Coates
    Aug 1, 2014 at 17:03

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